Posted on January 31, 2011 at 8:00 AM
This holiday season wasn’t especially kind to Borders, the second-largest bookselling chain in America. They’ve closed dozens of Borders Superstores, hundreds of Waldenbooks nationwide and even some distribution centers. The Big Six of the publishing industry are waiting on payments and delaying distribution, and the company hired high-profile bankruptcy lawyers earlier this month. All signs point to the loss of one of the most popular ways to run out and grab the latest bestseller.
There are several factors in the Borders decline, not the least of which being the recent boom in digital publishing and the growing amount of consumers that use the internet, especially Amazon.com, to buy their reading material. Whatever the cause, the effect of such a large bookseller closing its doors could be devastating to the industry. With such a large part of the market gone, publishers will be forced to push their books through other sellers and probably making drastic adjustments to print runs. Midlist authors will be less visible, therefore less desirable to a publishing house, and indie presses will lose a large path to promote less-known work. It could even lead to publishers reconsidering the decreasingly profitable industry standard “advance/royalty” payment method. Whatever happens, it’s hard to see Borders closing up shop as a good thing for the industry in general.
Borders' biggest competitor, Barnes & Noble, posted their highest holiday numbers “in more than a decade.” Their recent dismissal of 50 buyers that represented a wide range of genres, including the director of small press and vendor relations, is a big hint that they’re struggling. Since B&N’s great holiday season can mostly be attributed to their digital reader, the Nook, it’s plain to see that the brick-and-mortar bookselling world is on shaky ground. As emerging writers, we have to take notice. How will the loss of Borders affect your chance of being published by the Big Six? Do you think that indie bookstores, such as local favorite Quimby's, will be able to step into the gap and grow their consumer base? If you’re a loyal Borders customer, are you making the leap to B&N?